Making a change can be scary, no matter the circumstances. Sometimes, an external event—such as a layoff or a health scare—forces you to take the leap. Other times, your goals and priorities shift, and the way that you live your life no longer aligns with it. You might have tried your best to make your current circumstances work, but you know that the only way for you to do that is to make a big change.
Kerry Goyette, author of The Non-Obvious Guide to Emotional Intelligence, previously wrote in Fast Company that we don’t often think about the factors that influence our decisions. Our emotionally driven minds, our brains, external influences, and our physical and social environment are all factors that we should consider before making a big change. She writes, “If we want to make decisions in an emotionally intelligent way, we need to be aware of how these factors influence our choices.”
If you’re about to make a big change, here are some things that are worth considering before taking any drastic actions.
Examine your feelings
Even when you know that making a change is the right thing to do, you might find yourself resistant to it. As Stephanie Vozza previously wrote for Fast Company, certain types of change—such as a new job—generate excitement, so many people look forward to it. But other types of change can bring up feelings of uncertainty and a sense of apprehension around how things will turn out. Julita Haber, clinical assistant and professor of organizational behavior for Fordham University, told Vozza, “The anticipation of potentially negative outcomes is registered as a tension in our brain, causing extra neural effort, kicking off survival mode. Our brains embrace inner fears of failure or abandonment.”
When you find yourself feeling resistant, it’s important to look inward and think about what aspects of the change triggers that fear, says Amy Wallis, professor of organizational behavior at Wake Forest University School of Business. Once you can identify that, it becomes easier to reframe that fear into an opportunity. For example, you might fear that relocating to a different city where you don’t know anyone will lead to boredom and loneliness. While that is a possibility, you can also choose to view the move as an opportunity to meet new people who may have different experiences from you.
Understand why you’re making this change
Sometimes, when a desire for change emerges as a result of pent-up frustration or a deep-rooted fear, it’s important to ask yourself why you want to make this change, and whether it’s the best course of action. For starters, say that you’re going through a personal crisis, and every ounce of you wants to quit your high-stress job. Would that really be the best course of action for you, or is it better to ask your boss for a sabbatical, or even a reduced workload to free up your mental space?
When your brain is in a fight-or-flight situation, it may drive you to take a shortcut in order to feel safe. Think about instances where you relied on your gut reaction, only to realize that it was wrong moments after. Goyette previously told Stephanie Vozza, “We have to get out of the emotional-threat way of thinking and recognize that it’s an emotion. . . . To make better choices, the most emotionally intelligent people understand that being on the lookout for threats is a natural and essential part of how the brain perceives the world.”
Look after yourself
It’s all too easy to let the stress of making a change get to you, so much that you neglect to take care of your physical and mental health in the process. But as Jane Porter previously wrote for Fast Company, making big decisions often drains your energy. Yet many underestimate the mental and physical toll it can take. If you don’t take the time to pay attention to that, you might find yourself making a less-than-stellar decision.
As Hilary Scarlett, author of Neuroscience for Organizational Change, previously told Porter, “If you’ve got a big decision to make, sleep is really important for the brain. . . . It’s that ability to stop, pause, and respond, rather than just reacting very quickly to things.”